The grocery store offers a cornucopia of food choices, healthy and not so healthy. For most people, the grocery store is the source for the majority of food they consume. When working toward a healthier lifestyle, smart eating habits begin here. The food chosen from the shelves and bins makes a direct impact on a person’s overall health.
A healthy diet includes eating a variety of foods daily. At MyPlate.gov, you can view healthy eating tips, print out nutritious recipes and learn which foods should be filling the grocery cart for healthful living. The amount of each food group an individual needs for optimum health varies by gender and age. However, My Plate recommends making half your plate fruits and vegetables at each meal.
When grocery shopping, consider a few simple tips to find healthy food options.
Make a weekly menu plan. Take the time each week to create a menu plan packed with nutritious recipes. Consider having a Meatless Monday featuring a pasta primavera recipe with fresh vegetables and a low-fat sauce. Don’t forget to plan breakfast and lunch menus as well. Incorporate whole, fresh fruit for sack lunches and on-the-go snacks.
Let the menu guide the grocery list. Shopping without a grocery list can spell disaster. It can break a budget because you end up buying things you don’t need. Often those extra items are processed, unhealthy foods. Use the weekly menu as the source for the weekly shopping list. It tends to be easier to buy nutritious foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables if the list actually reads three green apples, one head cauliflower, two bags carrots, five peaches and so forth.
Focus on fresh foods. Plan to spend more than half your shopping trip in the produce section. Make it your first stop. The produce won’t spoil while you shop for the rest of the items on your list. The remainder of the list shouldn’t be very long since the bulk of the foods you need are in the produce section. Stock up on fruits and vegetables. Take advantage of prewashed and/or precut produce. Think of these healthy food items as your new and improved convenience foods. Substitute a package of baby carrots for a bag of potato chips for a snack item.
Shop the perimeters. Many stores are organized with the produce, fresh proteins and dairy items lined around the store’s perimeter. After stocking up on produce, look for fresh-baked whole grain bread products instead of the commercial processed versions. Opt for non-fat or lower fat content milk products and cheeses. If a recipe needs only three slices of Swiss cheese, don’t buy a package with 16 slices. Stop at the deli and request three slices. You don’t have to order items in the deli by weight.
Avoid the candy and snack aisles. Fresh strawberries and one cup of non-fat frozen yogurt is a healthier treat than most of the candy found at the grocery store. Avoid the candy and snack aisles, or limit your visit to once a month and one treat.